Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.

Roy Smith

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Anais Nin

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself – and be lenient to everybody else.

Henry Ward Beecher

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; Genius will not; Education will not. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

It is the conversations we have with ourselves that determine our actions and choices in life. To raise the quality of our actions and contributions to our families, work organisations, communities and society at large, we need to raise the quality of our conversations with ourselves. The more we succeed in doing so, the better we are able to balance ongoing challenging of ourselves and satisfaction about what we were able to achieve. When one stops (stretching ourselves or satisfaction in what we are doing), the other follows and life becomes miserable.

Jesus told the story of a man who went on a journey and entrusted his assets to his workers. Each of the three workers received an amount of money to look after on their master’s behalf. The two who received five and two talents (a money measurement) respectively, through their work doubled the amount that was given to them. The third one however dug a hole in the ground and hid the money in it. A long time went past before the master came back. He was happy to see that two of the workers doubled the amount that was given to them. He praised them as faithful and promised them more responsibility. The third one who hid the money in the ground immediately came up with an excuse: ‘I knew that you were a hard man … so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.’ The master rebuked him, said he was lazy and then took the money from him and gave it to the worker who had ten talents after doubling the five that was given to him.

What would the conversation have been that the lazy worker had with himself? Probably something like ‘I cannot risk the chance of losing the money. I fear my master will be very angry with me. Better if I go and hide it.’ Even after a long time his thinking didn’t change. He did not apply his thinking and energy to do the best he can with the responsibility given to him. He got used to his thoughts of excusing himself for not doing anything. His main concern and consideration was self-protection. The other two however knew that their efforts were not about themselves and their own kingdoms, but how they can best serve their master. If we want to serve we stop looking for excuses and start looking for opportunities.

If our conversations with ourselves are dominated by the question ‘what is in it for me?’ we will find it impossible to truly connect with others. And no doubt, if we cannot have good quality relationships with others, in family as well as work contexts, our lives will be poorer and smaller – even with people around us. Charles Parkhurst said a true word when he said: The man who lives by himself and for himself is likely to be corrupted by the company he keeps. And as Napoleon Hill said: If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.

Another challenging conversation with ourselves is about self-doubt. Even the most self-confident among us will experience doubt from time to time. It is that feeling of uncertainty about your ability to accomplish something. As a result the sense of insecurity can lead to hesitation and indecision. We can even abandon our course or radically compromise our expectations. We therefore need to take the feeling of self-doubt seriously and find a way to overcome it. Keep in mind that when we conquer doubt it yields stronger resolve.

Our determination will always be greater once we successfully meet challenges to our self-confidence. Once we develop a history meeting doubt head on and conquering it, we become much less susceptible to its influence. It will still surface from time to time, but we will see it coming, and know how to neutralise it. It is important to recognise and acknowledge your doubt. Try to identify the source or the area of your life that creates your sense of uncertainty. Then work out an action plan to overcome it. What small steps can you take in that area that will give you a sense of making progress that will build your confidence? In future, feelings of self-doubt is nothing more than a speed bump on the road to success.

And then there is the conversation about discipline. Discipline comes from the belief that Aristotle was right when he said: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. If we allow ourselves to keep on questioning the use or enjoyment of earlier resolutions, we will never unlock latent potential and we will never reap the fruits of doing something that is right and good consistently. Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability. To master our weaknesses for distractions that prevent us from forming habits of excellence is hard and never fully complete – but it makes all the difference! In some areas, due to our natural personal preferences, we find it a lot easier than in others. Yet, there are disciplines that we know are necessary for excellence. Whether they come hard for us or not, we need to keep our commitments to them.

In self-mastery one of the key questions one would keep on asking oneself will be: Do I expect things from others that I don’t do myself? Am I selective in how I apply standards? The way we project ourselves on others serves as a distraction from the need for an honest conversation with ourselves. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself – and be lenient to everybody else, is Henry Beecher’s advise.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg